The Abraham Accords undermined much-needed peace with Palestinians

Jerusalem Israel Palestine Dome of The Rock Golden Dome

For many decades, I have been advocating for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. (Justice and the Intifada: Palestinians and Israelis Speak about Peace, Friendship Press, 1991; Unified in Hope: Arabs and Jews Talk about Peace, WCC publications, 1987). Regretfully, I have seen the “peace process” being exploited, time and time again, with evolving tactics to soften attitudes toward injustice.

It is hard to imagine that something good could come out of a political project which is masterminded by Israel’s status-quo guardian Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, most unilateralist US President Donald Trump and some reckless Arab Gulf leaders. Yet, the latest Middle East “peace” product recently emerging from Tel-Aviv, Washington and the Gulf has received a somewhat favorable reaction in the Western media.

I am talking about the so-called Abraham Accords, a recent rush of “normalization” agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. These deals have been smartly packaged to sway public opinion. They are touted as initiatives of peace-making, reconciliation (among religious communities) and justifiable measures of defense against a common “belligerent” adversary, namely Iran.

While being mostly critical of President Trump, Western media has been soft on the US president when it comes to his policy on Israel. And for the Abraham Accords, US commentators have given unusual support; the “peace” messaging has been effective. To illustrate, in the Washington Post’s January 1 issue, Marc A. Thiessen highlights The 10 best things Trump did in 2020. The columnist claims that Trump “transformed the Middle East” with the Abraham Accords: the US president “brokered” four Arab-Israeli peace deals. Such a “Nobel Prize-worthy” achievement demonstrated that there could be “separate peace without Palestinians”. Thiessen’s bias becomes clear when one looks at the rest of his 10 “best things”; the most astonishing achievement listed is “improved the lives of a majority of Americans”. Like the rest of the analysts who find signs of “hope” in these Accords, Thiessen does not explain how Israel is advancing peace in the region. By ignoring the sobering fact that the Palestinian population under Israel’s sphere of control – that is those living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea- has already surpassed the Jewish Israeli population? Is apartheid to be ignored forever? How is peace achieved by constantly expanding settlements, widening annexations, promulgating double standards and violating established international agreements on war and governance? [1]

One wonders, how Abraham-ic (ecumenical) are these Accords. The Biblical name Abraham is usually used to highlight the commonalities among the three Middle East- rooted Monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Accords that tie strong Israel with four insecure Sunnite Arab countries, supposedly to confront the (Shiite) Islamic Republic of Iran, are not in harmony with the spirit of the Old Testament patriarch. Abraham of modern times is about ecumenism, not political deals.

And how “normal” are these acts of normalization? The Abraham Accords do not stand as a genuine move of reconciliation between Arabs and Jews, as its authors tout it to be. There is absolutely no healing in fueling regional tension, which these Accords are doing. Since these Accords have emerged, international observers have been watching if Trump and/or Netanyahu would launch an air attack on Iran’s nuclear sites. Washington and Tel Aviv are increasingly provoking Tehran to retaliate, possibly to set the stage for a collective counter-attack on the Islamic Republic. Watch the daily news over the next few weeks as Trump and Netanyahu look for ways to maintain legitimacy, power and influence.[2]

Each of the five states involved in Abraham Accords has its self-serving reasons for normalization. Israel gets to divert world attention from its occupation by making peace “deals” with “moderate Arabs”, i.e. non-Palestinian Sunnites. Bahrain seeks shelter from Iran and from rising domestic troubles; in Manama, Sunnite Royalty rules over a majority-Shiite population. Morocco normalizes with Israel, partly, in order to receive President Trump’s recognition of its alleged sovereignty over the Western Sahara territory. Washington rewards Sudan for normalization by dropping it from the list of terrorist states. And Washington rewards the compliance of the United Arab Emirates by selling Abu Dhabi heavy and lethal arms which the fragile Emirates have been using recklessly in the disastrous Yemen war.[3]

In sum, the normalization deals between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco are actually acts of normalizing injustice.

The Arab Spring provides a background for the Abraham Accords. The Accords look like desperate moves by highly insecure Arab Gulf regimes seeking the protection of a powerful, colonial state. And Israel, ironically the agency of shelter and comfort, legitimizes its occupation while mobilizing with Sunnite Arab nations against Shiite Iran.

Is Marc A. Thiessen dreaming of a Nobel Prize for the Abraham Accords?